The pro-security camp in the EP is reinforced, following the attacks in Paris. This might secure a majority in favour of the EU PNR agreement

A large majority of EU parliamentarians adopted the report drafted by the French EPP MEP Rachida Dati on the prevention of radicalisation and recruitment of European citizens by terrorist organisations. The vote is highly significant since it takes place just few days after the tragic Paris terrorist attacks that were perpetrated by radicalised EU citizens.

The resolution was adopted by 548 votes in favour, 110 against and 36 abstentions. The votes against the report came from the Eurosceptic MEPs of the EFDD group, the nationalist MEPs of the ENF group and the radical left group GUE-NGL.

There was agreement among the EU Parliamentarians that the Union and its Member States need to invest more to tackle the education and unemployment problems that contribute to the radicalisation of vulnerable citizens.

However, there were a number of key points where the views were different, particularly when it comes to upgrading security measures at the expense of privacy. The vote this week shows a reinforcement of the pro-security camp in the European Parliament, but the strength of the two camps that represent the two different viewpoints is still rather balanced.

EU PNR yes, but its exact provisions are still to be defined

Although the interior ministers of the Member States have recently agreed to work to finalise the EU PNR by the end of the year, this accord cannot go ahead without the backing of the European Parliament, which cannot be taken for granted. After the EU elections of 2014, the balance of power in the EP has shifted towards more privacy, rather than more security. This was proven in late 2014 when an ad-hoc coalition of the left, liberals and eurosceptics has sent the EU-Canada PNR to the EU Court of Justice, instead of adopting it.

The terrorist attacks at the beginning of 2014 have given a new momentum to the EU PNR, but it seemed until recently that not enough MEPs were ready to support it still. Now, in the Dati report, over 500 MEPs have voted to work to finalise the agreement by the end of the year, but with a very strong phrasing in favour of protecting fundamental rights. This would restrict the power of the security agencies more than the interior ministers probably want to, thus indicating an imminent collision between the two institutions.

 Obligations for social media and internet providers

Smaller majorities of MEPs have voted in favour of upgrading the rights of the authorities to impose obligations on social media to delete content that can spread violent extremism. Internet providers should also be obliged to support law enforcement agencies in this respect. These provisions passed by a margin of around 50 votes and this development shows a change of perspective by some MEPs in the Socialist group. Concretely, in the post Paris attacks context, the French, Spanish, Belgian and part of the Italian Socialists have voted in favour of more rights for security agencies, going against the position of the Socialist group as a whole, who has traditionally prioritised privacy over security. Here is how the political groups have voted on this separate issue:

Obligations of social media and IP, all groups

And here is how the national delegations voted in the Socialist group:

Obligations of social media and IP, SD group

Criticism of additional border controls at EU frontiers dismissed by a narrow margin

The center-right conservatives succeeded in rejecting an amendment that harshly criticised additional border controls to prevent the entry into the EU of migrants. The left groups were of the opinion that the search for terrorists should not be used for imposing such additional controls at the external borders. The conservatives’ position prevailed due to the backing of the eurosceptics and far right, but also due to the realignment of the Danish Socialists (in government in Copenhagen) and liberals from Belgium (in government in Brussels) and Czech Republic (in government in Prague) – all of whom sided with the conservatives in favour of stricter border controls.

Here is how the political groups voted on this separate issue:

Am 52 part 2, stricter controls at the external borders, all groups

And here is how the national delegations voted in the ALDE group:

Stricter controls at the external borders, ALDE

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Statements of the EU political groups

European People’s Party (EPP), the political family of President Juncker and Chancellor Merkel said that in terrorism prevention, European cooperation is an obligation for all. The rapporteur on the dossier, Ms Dati explained that the measure proposed, like the criminal liability of internet giants, the containment of radicalisation inside prisons, the setting-up of the EU PNR and systematic controls at EU’s external borders, should be implemented as quickly as possible[1].

The Socialists and Democrats (S&D), the group of the French President Hollande is of the opinion that all Member States need to commit to a “comprehensive European strategy, coherently mobilising all external action tools (CFSP and CSDP) and internal policy and legislative action.” They also underlined that “upholding fundamental human rights alongside security is crucial”.

S&D MEPs explain that the Union must get rid of economic policies which have limited growth and job creation in the EU. The group specified that it rejects “repressive approaches that enforce a securitarian view of the state at the expense of fundamental rights and freedoms[2].”

The European Conservatives and Reformists group (ECR): David Cameron’s EU political group has always advocate for the setting up of the EU PNR system and reiterated its call to adopt the Passenger Name Records system by the end of the year. The group also supports better sharing of intelligence between national authorities. However, it is specified that this does not mean that there is the need of an EU intelligence agency[3].

The Liberal group ALDE of Mr Verhofstadt called for a European front against Daesh and the establishment of an EU Intelligence Agency. Verhofstadt urged the Member States to prioritise security over sovereignty[4].

GUE/NGL: The radical left group close to the Greek Prime Minister Tsipras asked to avoid abusive responses to Paris attacks and to address terrorism under the rule of law. The group believes there is the need to understand why so many young people decide to join the Isis[5].

The GREENS said that it is important to work together on those issues to effectively tackle radicalisation.  They advocate for “strengthening local capacity to combat violent extremism and working together with affected communities to address radicalisation.” The group wishes to underline that the threat of terrorism cannot be mixed up with current refugee crisis.

Moreover, the group is against the PNR air passenger data monitoring system. They are of the opinion that these measures are inefficient[6].

The Europe for Freedom and Direct Democracy group (EFDD), the EU political family of Nigel Farage argues that “the free of movement of people is leading to the free of movement of Jihad”. The group is in favour of reinstating border controls[7].

[1] http://www.eppgroup.eu/press-release/Terrorism-prevention%3A-EU-cooperation-an-obligation-for-all

[2] http://www.socialistsanddemocrats.eu/sites/default/files/plenary_newsletter_november_2015_1.pdf

[3] http://ecrgroup.eu/news/syed-kamall-mep-on-the-paris-attacks-you-can-attack-us-you-can-injure-us-but-you-will-never-break-us/

[4] http://www.alde.eu/nc/press/press-and-release-news/press-release/article/verhofstadt-calls-for-a-european-defence-community-against-daesh-verhofstadt-security-has-to-pre/

[5] http://www.guengl.eu/news/article/gue-ngl-news/our-meps-call-to-avoid-abusive-responses-to-paris-attacks-address-terrorism

[6] http://www.greens-efa.eu/radicalisation-14862.html

[7] http://www.efdgroup.eu/newsroom/item/the-free-of-movement-of-people-is-leading-to-the-free-of-movement-of-jihad